Florida-Dayton post-game – Final-ly Four: Gators exorcise Elite Eight demon on way to North Texas

Advancing to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and first time since 2007, the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) pulled off a 62-52 victory over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) in the Elite Eight round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some of his players met with the media to discuss the historic win.

POST-GAME CELEBRATION, NET CUTTING

DEMON, EXORCISED

Donovan and his players could not say it enough on Friday: Florida’s three-straight Elite Eight losses had nothing at all to do with Saturday’s game. Yet while the Gators’ roster is different, their chemistry is improved and they are currently in the midst of the most impressive single season in school history, it would have been a blemish had UF not overcome this obstacle.

Elite Eight demon, you have been exorcised.

“I’m not so sure that these four seniors, having gone through the experience in the previous Elite Eights, could have made the next step that they made,” Donovan said. “There were things we went through the last three years that enabled those guys to learn a lot to take the next step that they did this year.”

He continued: “They’re better players today by going through what they went through. If it would have been easier on them, I don’t think they’d be quite as good. I think the struggle they’ve had to go through has forced them to have perseverance, resiliency, mental and physical toughness to be able to battle and fight. More than anything else, as a coach, the thing you love about that is hopefully they can take those qualities to the next step in their life, because when they start a new career in their life, they’re going to go through some of that themselves.”

Continue Reading » Florida-Dayton post-game – Final-ly Four: Gators exorcise Elite Eight demon on way to North Texas

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Brewer: “One decision made everybody happy.”

The only player in Florida Gators basketball history to win an NCAA Championship and NBA title, forward Corey Brewer signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the offseason and will return to the team that selected him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

After a three-year career at Florida that included the first triple-double in school history, two NCAA titles and the 2007 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player award, Brewer began playing as a professional with Minnesota but struggled after a torn ACL forced him to miss the majority of the 2008-09 season.

A trade resulted in Brewer being waived, but a subsequent contract signing brought him all the way to the 2011 NBA Finals with Dallas. He has spent the last three years with Denver following a second trade and raised his value by playing in George Karl’s up-tempo system. One of the most coveted free agents on the open market (after the top-tier players got snatched up this offseason), Brewer chose to reunite with Minnesota. But before that season can begin, he will return to Gainesville, FL, to host the fourth annual Corey Brewer Back-to-Back Basketball Camp benefiting the Corey Brewer Fight Diabetes Fund at Shands Hospital.

OnlyGators.com sat down with Brewer on Sunday to discuss his college legacy, NBA career and his charitable endeavors.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in Tennessee, what was it about Florida and head coach Billy Donovan that made you decide that playing for the Gators was the right choice for your future as a basketball player?
COREY BREWER: “First of all, when I came on my official visit and I saw the campus, I was like, man, this is so wonderful. The campus was beautiful. It was just amazing. Everybody was so nice. Coach Donovan and his style of play, playing up-and-down the court, it was perfect for me. Even though I wanted to stay close to home, Tennessee was playing slow at the time and I just did not feel like I fit into Vanderbilt’s system. Florida was definitely the place for me.”

AS: Did you know any of the other guys in your recruiting class before committing?
CB:Al [Horford] from Nike camps a little bit, and I knew Taurean [Green]. He was trying to get me to commit hard when we were at camps together over the summer. Taurean committed first and he was like, ‘Come on, we need you, we need you, you need to go ahead and commit.’ I heard that for a week straight and got to know him well. I didn’t know Jo[akim Noah] too well though.”

AS: What did you think about Jo the first time you met him?
CB: “This guy is just a free spirit, a good guy. When we first met, we were playing in the gym and he came in and started working hard. You could just tell he was a good guy.”

Continue Reading » Brewer: “One decision made everybody happy.”

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Florida Gators women’s tennis wins second-straight national title with 4-0 sweep of UCLA

No. 2 Florida Gators (27-1) women’s tennis became just the second program in the history of the sport to win back-to-back national championships, capturing the program’s second-straight title with a 4-0 sweep of the No. 1 UCLA Bruins (26-3) in the finals of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Tuesday at Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.

Florida ended their season on a 22-match winning streak, sweeping four of the five opponents they faced on their way to the program’s sixth national title. The Gators were playing for the NCAA Championship for the third-straight year (lost to Stanford in 2010) and 13th time in school history.

No. 1 junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen wasted little time getting Florida on the board in doubles action, dominating No. 6 Robin Anderson/Skylar Morton from start to finish in an 8-2 win.

The Gators found themselves down early in the other two doubles matches with No. 22 junior Lauren Embree/senior Joanna Mather trailing No. 9 Pamela Montez/Courtney Dolehide and the team of sophomore Alex Cercone/junior Caroline Hitimana falling behind McCall Jones/Carling Seguso.

Florida slowly but surely fought their way back in both matches with Cercone/Hitimana eventually defeating Jones/Seguso 8-5 and Embree/Mather leading Montez/Dolehide 6-5 when the doubles point was clinched for the Gators to give UF an early 1-0 lead.

No. 79 Cercone had a much easier time in her singles match, quickly defeating No. 119 Chanelle Van Nguyen in straight sets (6-2, 6-0) to extend Florida’s lead to 2-0 with five matches still in action. No. 61 Oyen then registered a clean victory over No. 124 Morton, beating the freshman 6-3, 6-2 to pull the Gators within one match of the title.

It was No. 9 Embree who was once again tasked with closing out the national championship for Florida after winning the title in a grueling three-set tiebreaker one year ago. She did not waste much time doing just that, taking down No. 98 Jones 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the national championship for the Gators.

Following the match, Embree was awarded the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award for the second-straight year. She was also named to the All-Tournament team along with Cercone at the two and four spots for singles, respectively.

“It’s amazing. I still can’t really believe that just happened again that we went back-to-back. It’s just so exciting; I’m so proud of my teammates,” Embree said. “I said last year was a dream come true, but it’s a dream come true again. Our team has worked so hard, and I just feel like we played so well this week. I’m so proud of them.”

No. 1 Will trailed No. 4 Anderson 4-6, 2-5 at the time of completion. No. 21 Mather was slightly up on No. 73 Montez 3-6, 6-3, 1-0, and sophomore Olivia Janowicz was nearly even with Seguso 6-7, 5-2 when the title was clinched.

Florida women’s tennis’ victory Tuesday marks the school’s 28th overall national championship and 19th since athletic director Jeremy Foley took over. It was also head coach Roland Thornqvist‘s third national title since being hired in 2002.

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Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

A tumultuous weekend and up-and-down season came to a conclusion for No. 5 Florida Gators softball as the team fell 1-0 to the South Florida Bulls and failed in their bid to advance out of the Gainesville Regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Florida (48-13) lost the first game of the regional but won consecutive contests in the loser’s bracket on Saturday to move on to the finals against USF (48-11). The Gators were hoping to win and force a second game on Sunday but instead lost the contest and failed to reach the Women’s College World Series for the fifth-straight season.

Sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (28-8) got the nod to start and pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run on four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 7.0 innings. Her lone blemish came in the top of the fourth when an infield single allowed the Bulls to score what would end up being the game-deciding run.

Rogers’s complete game performance was matched by South Florida starter Sara Nevens, who allowed five hits and three walks but struck out 12 including two important batters in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Florida rallied to load the bases with no one out but failed to cross the plate as Nevins struck out consecutive batters and forced an infield groundout to get out of the frame unscathed.

Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie, playing her last game in orange and blue, was the only Florida batter to register more than one hit as she went 2-for-4 on the afternoon. She concluded her UF career as the team’s all-time leader in batting average (.385), stolen bases (83) and stolen base attempts (99). Moultrie also picked up a number of awards during her tenure with the Gators including 2010 SEC Player of the Year, 2011 WCWS Co-Most Outstanding Player, 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team and a number of All-American honors.

It is the first time since 2006 that Florida did not move on to the Super Regional.

Though he did not get into specifics regarding the incident that led to him eventually suspending three of his starters, head coach Tim Walton spoke more about the general situation following Sunday’s loss at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Continue Reading » Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

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Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2010, the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From game-winning baskets to displays of pure emotion, Florida experienced some unique athletic moments in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 On the Field Moments of the Year.

OGGOA RELATED: Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

10 » FLORIDA WINS INAUGURAL LACROSSE GAME (2/20/10)
When Florida decided it wanted to start another women’s athletics program, the University Athletic Association did extensive research and found out that women’s lacrosse would be the perfect fit. In preparation for their first season, the Gators and head coach Amanda O’Leary secured the country’s No. 1 recruiting class (according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine). All the hard work and preparation to get the team ready paid off on Feb. 20 when lacrosse debuted in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium to a boisterous crowd of 2,114 spectators. Florida defeated Jacksonville 16-6 behind four goals and four assists from freshman sensation Ashley Bruns. All-in-all the Gators faced 16 championship-caliber teams and played so well that they reached the 2010 ALC Tournament semifinals. In just their second year of existence, Florida women’s lacrosse is ranked as the No. 17 team in the country going into the 2011 season.

9 » NEAR VICTORIES/HEARTBREAKING LOSSES (5/25/10 * 3/18/10 * 10/9/10)

It is rare for teams to go undefeated and even less likely that an entire athletic program can go through a season without its share of close losses and nail biting finishes. Such was the case for the Gators in 2010. On May 25, No. 3 women’s tennis was barely defeated by the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal for the 2010 NCAA National Championship. Stanford won 4-3 after Florida rallied when they were just two individual games away from being defeated. The Gators forced third sets in two singles matches; sophomore Joanna Mather took down her opponent but senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra was not as lucky. Losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with No. 33 Mallory Burdette by taking the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, she pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead but ended up losing her final three games, the match itself and the championship.

Returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, No. 10-seed Florida got in a bit easier than some might have expected. Matched up against the No. 7-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the event’s opening game, the Gators fought hard but could not stop Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette. Allowing BYU to jump ahead 59-46 in the second half, UF came back behind freshman G Kenny Boynton and junior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida missed potential game-winners during regulation (Parsons) and the first overtime (Boynton) and eventually fell to Brigham Young 99-92 in a double-overtime heartbreaker with Fredette adding to his game-high 37 points.

Though losing a national championship and NCAA Tournament game are both difficult, Gators fans will probably look back on No. 12/14 Florida’s shocking loss to the No. 9/12 LSU Tigers on Oct. 10 as the worst near-victory of the season. Wearing orange jerseys for the first time since 1989, the Gators came back from a 12-point deficit when freshman wide receiver Andre Debose returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, sophomore running back Mike Gillislee rumbled in for a touchdown and redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley completed a two-point conversion to sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. All Florida wanted when its defense came out was a stop, but LSU put together a 62-yard game-winning drive that included numerous third down conversions and a converted fake field goal attempt on fourth down from UF’s 36-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. Back-to-back passes to WR Terrence Toliver (of 28 and 3 yards, respectively) and the Tigers left The Swamp with a 33-29 victory. Players have noted that the loss was a negative turning point in the season, one that may or may not have led to the team dropping their third-straight game one week later at home to Mississippi State.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

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TWO BITS: Volleyball earns No. 1 NCAA seed

1 » No. 1/1 Florida Gators volleyball earned the program’s first-ever No. 1 national seed on Sunday when the NCAA officially announced the 64-team bracket for the 2010 NCAA Volleyball Championship. One of six Southeastern Conference schools to qualify for the tournament, Florida will take its 22-match winning streak into the event. The Gators finished the regular season a perfect 20-0 in SEC competition, the first team to do so since the schedule was adjusted in 2006. Florida (27-1) will face South Carolina State (17-22) to start off their tournament on Friday at 7:30 p.m. as the first and second rounds will be hosted from Dec. 3-4 in Gainesville, FL. Also in UF’s region are Florida State (21-10) and Georgia Southern (27-8). Though being a No. 1 seed is new for the Gators, hosting NCAA action is not; Florida has started the NCAA Tournament at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center 19 times in the last 20 seasons.

The Gators completed their perfect SEC slate on Friday by defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks 3-0 (25-14, 25-16, 25-12) on the road at the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, SC. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers notched a team-high nine kills while junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy totaled seven kills, 12 assists, four digs, four service aces and a season-high five blocks.

2 » Florida women’s basketball was also busy over the weekend; the ladies were victorious in back-to-back contests to win the 2010 Dead River Company Classic in Orno, ME. The Gators (5-1) defeated the South Alabama Jaguars (3-3) 61-51 on Friday and ended the short tournament with a 52-43 win over the Navy Midshipmen (4-2) on Saturday. Florida junior center Azania Stewart was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament after totaling 24 rebounds in two games. UF redshirt junior guard Jordan Jones was placed on the All-Tournament Team due to her stellar performance including 18 points.

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Six home runs help Gators dominate Owls 15-0

In their most dominant performance of the season, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (45-15) throttled the Florida Atlantic Owls (37-24) 15-0 to win the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Regional on Sunday night at McKethan Stadium and advance to Super Regional competition.

Fueled by sophomore outfielder Tyler Thompson – who posted a three home run, six RBI performance in which he went 4-for-5 – the Gators smacked six homers over the outfield wall (a school postseason record) while simultaneously shutting out the Owls behind seven strong innings by freshman starter Brian Johnson (6-4).

Johnson also went 3-for-5 from the plate with a homer. Junior first baseman Preston Tucker (4-6, four RBI) and freshman catcher Mike Zunino (2-4) provided the other two dingers of the evening. In all, Florida tallied 19 hits and five walks, stranding 10 on base.

Relievers redshirt sophomore Tommy Toledo and junior Kevin Chapman tossed the final two innings of the contest to complete the shutout.

Johnson was honored with the Gainesville Regional’s Most Outstanding Player award after the game for his .625 (5-8) performance at the plate for the series and dominant outing from the mound on Sunday. UF as a whole placed seven players in eight spots on the All-Tournament Team, including Johnson, Thompson, Tucker, Zunino, senior outfielder Matt den Dekker and freshman pitcher Hudson Randall.

The win advances the Gators to Super Regional action for the second-straight year and fourth in the last seven. Gainesville, FL, will once again host the event, which will consist of a three-game series against the winner of the Coral Gables Regional (to be decided Monday night between Miami and Texas A&M).

Florida is 20-1 in night games at home this season and won its 13th consecutive game on Sunday. The Gators outscored their three opponents 32-5 over the weekend.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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Too sweet! No. 5 Florida Gators savor Sugar Bowl

Coming of a week filled with seemingly endless questions and distractions, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-1) eased tensions and erased any doubts (at least temporarily) with a dominating 51-24 victory over the No. 3 Cincinnati Bearcats (12-1) in the 2010 Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome.

In the final game of his college career, Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow went 31-of-35 for a career-high 482 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air. He also carried the ball 14 times for 51 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Completing his first twelve passes in what was arguably the best performance of his entire career, Tebow finished with 533 total yards – more than anyone in both BCS and Sugar Bowl history. Tebow’s three touchdown passes went to senior wide receiver Riley Cooper, junior tight end Aaron Hernandez and redshirt sophomore WR Deonte Thompson.

“It was incredible,” Tebow said of his third BCS bowl game victory. “Just a great game. It was exactly how you want to go out with these seniors and these coaches in your last game and your last time together. It just really doesn’t get any better than this.”

Cooper caught seven passes for a career-high 181 yards, Hernandez brought in nine balls for 111 yards and Thompson snagged five for 63 yards. Redshirt sophomore running back Chris Rainey caught four passes for 71 yards; he also rushed four times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt junior transfer RB Emmanuel Moody had the first two touchdown game of his career though freshman RB Mike Gillislee ended up as the team’s leading rusher (79 yards) after taking a hand-off for 52 yards in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, junior cornerback Joe Haden once again shut down his assignment, allowing Bearcats senior wide receiver Mardy Gilyard to gain only 41 yards. Florida’s pass rush and blitzing was on-point all night, holding Cincinnati senior QB Tony Pike to 27-of-45 passing for 170 yards. Pike, however, completed three touchdown passes after the game was out of hand. Junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap earned two of the team’s three sacks on Pike, the secondary had numerous interception opportunities and senior linebacker Brandon Spikes was flying around the ball all evening.

The Gators outgained the Bearcats 660-to-246 in total yardage, though the time of possession battle was close to even because Florida scored quickly. The Gators’ 660 yards was also a Sugar Bowl record. With the win, Florida became the first school in Football Bowl Subdivision history to win 13 games in consecutive seasons.

Going into the game, the Gators were without senior kick returner Brandon James (foot), redshirt junior LB A.J. Jones (knee) and redshirt junior defensive tackle Terron Sanders (hip), though additional injuries piled up before and during the game. Junior center Maurkice Pouncey spent five hours in the hospital earlier in the day passing a kidney stone and left the game in the second half to pass another. Sophomore RB Jeff Demps dislocated his elbow early on and redshirt junior left guard Carl Johnson hurt his shoulder. Sophomore CB Janoris Jenkins and redshirt senior LB Ryan Stamper were both down on the field for a while but would return to action.

Gators head coach Urban Meyer, who resigned on Saturday before changing his mind and deciding to take a leave of absence instead on Sunday, said at the trophy presentation after the game that he hoped to return to the sidelines for the 2010 season. “I plan on being the coach of the Gators,” Meyer said. On Tebow, Meyer said he “will go down as one of the great players, if not the greatest player, in college football [history].” Tebow won the game’s Most Outstanding Player Award, thanking the coaches, his teammates and Gator Nation while accepting it on the podium. He took a moment to specifically thank Meyer for making him a Gator, telling him that he loved him and hugging him.

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